Ian Parkin is the verified author of this post.
Learning how to understand your Chinese zodiac chart can be a huge gift when it comes to revealing the truth about you and others. Getting to know your animal sign, and your element with its heavenly stem is both fascinating and very helpful in many ways.
Chinese Astrology is very different to the Western predictive system. When you hear the word astrology, do you immediately think of your sun sign and the relationship of the planets to your date of birth? That's not the case with a Chinese Zodiac Chart.
Your Chinese Zodiac Chart is based on the lunar calendar and the interaction in the cycle of astrological animals based on the position of Jupiter in its solar year and the five elements in their yin and yang form. Since there are 12 animals or positions and five elements, the cycle is 60 years long. Each element has a 12 year cycle associated with all twelve of the 12 zodiac animal signs. For example, a monkey can have a water element born on a specific year, but the monkey born 12 years later would be wood. The elements are also yin or yang, a building one --- such as growing trees for wood --- and a harvesting one --- such as cutting that wood and using it to build.
To make it a bit more confusing, the Chinese calendar doesn't coincide with the Gregorian or Western calendar. It's a lunisolar calendar, whereas the Western calendar is strictly a solar calendar. The significance of that is because the Chinese New Year begins on a different day each year. It is set based on the new moon closest to the start of spring, between January 21st and February 21st. Which means that even if you were born in a specific year, if it was between those two dates, you might be one of two different animal signs, based on the date of the Chinese New Year that year.
Just like the Zodiac astrology familiar in the Western world, the day, hour and month you were born has a major significance in this branch of astrology. For a complete reading of your Chinese Zodiac Chart, you need to include these, just as you would for reading a Zodiac chart in the Western world. However, just knowing which of the “twelve earthly branches” you belong --- the animal sign --- can give you a tremendous amount of information. Your birth date will also provide which of the “ten heavenly stems” are associated with your birth. These are the five elements --- fire, water, earth, metal and wood --- and whether they're yin or yang. You therefore have an animal sign and two corresponding element signs.
Your animal sign gives information on your basic personality, but also on your lucky numbers, ruling or best hours of the day, the fixed element and other information, including lucky days, colors and flowers. The forecasting comes with the interplay of your sign and that year's element and animal sign. Years with the same animal sign as yours can be more unlucky. What makes the difference is the elements associated with your birth. Relationships are also forecast based on both your animal and element signs and the other person's. This art also is used to forecast health and finances. It is a complementary tool for decorating with Feng Shui to bring maximum luck to your life.
As you can see from the years that are listed below each animal rules for one year and then the next animal has its turn. Every 12 years the cycle begins again and you can easily determine what year is controlled by which animal whether you are researching the distant past or predicting the future.